Market down, recycling cost up in Charleston County

Charleston County residents won’t see a change in the way their recycling is collected. But the down market for recyclables means the increase to process the material will cost the county more.

Charleston County’s cost to ship recyclables to Horry County for processing has risen four-fold since the deal was struck last summer.

The original arrangement had Charleston County transporting the material to Horry, which cost about $525 per truckload. In turn, Horry County paid Charleston $425 for each load.

Since then, the numbers have changed, as the market for recyclable material continues to plummet, said County Councilwoman Colleen Condon, who chairs the solid waste committee. Now, Horry isn’t paying anything.

The amount that Horry pays Charleston could change again under the contract signed by both groups, depending on the market for recyclables, she said.

“We still believe this is the most cost-effective way in the short run,” Condon said. Eventually, the county will open its own new recycling facility in North Charleston.

Despite the increased cost of shipping glass, aluminium and paper up the coast, Condon said it’s still cheaper than dumping these recyclables in a landfill. To save space in its Bees Ferry Landfill, Charleston County currently sends some of its trash to the Oakridge Landfill in Dorchester County. The cost to transport trash drives up the net cost of disposing of it in a landfill, Condon said.

With the market for recyclables in such bad shape, others also are seeking creative ways to find new markets for the material.

Chris Fisher, owner of the commercial Fisher Recycling, said he is beginning to roll out a new glass recycling program for his clients.

These clients, which include many restaurants and hotels, will place their glass in separate bins, and Fisher will use it to make counter tops. And, he has a bottler that has agreed to take the glass he doesn’t use.

Condon said county representatives will meet with Fisher at some point to see if having him recycle the county’s glass is feasible.

Also, the county soon will start construction on a new recycling center on the Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston. A new director of the county’s environmental management division will begin in early May.

“We’re not going to change our program with so much going on,” Condon said.

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.